FELDMAN: Welcome back to our show. We are with a very special guest, Secretary of State [sic] Donald Rumsfeld. Secretary Rumsfeld, welcome to the ZOA Middle East Report.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you very much.
FELDMAN: It's really an honor to have you on our show.
I want to get right into some questions with you. There have been a lot of people, as you know, who are blaming or saying that Israel is responsible for getting the United States into the Iraq war. How do you respond to such allegations?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well it's obviously not correct. People throw allegations around all the time, and a large number of them aren't correct, but the United States made a conscious decision to go to the United Nations, and to express the concern that was felt by most of the Western nations about the fact that Iraq was a terrorist state, Iraq was a state that was shooting at our aircraft that were enforcing the Northern and Southern No-Fly Zones on a regular basis. It was providing $25,000 for families of suicide bombers. It's a country that had used chemical weapons against its own people and its neighbors. The President went to the United Nations and to the Congress and made a conscious decision to do what was done.
FELDMAN: Can you assess the progress on the Iraq war effort, both in terms of advancing democracy and the impact it's having on Israel and the broader Middle East?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well certainly the success that's being achieved there, if one thinks about it, there were elections in January, then there was, October 15th in Iraq, there was a referendum on the constitution that had been drafted by the people elected by the Iraqi people, and now we're looking towards a third election in a single year on December 15th, where the people will be electing people under their new constitution. That is an enormous step forward for the people of Iraq.
In the past, what's kept the people away from each other has been a repressive regime that imposed a dictatorial system on all the people of that country -- Sunnis, Shia and Kurds. Now they're fashioning a piece of paper, a constitution, that will be that which will persuade all of them that they can live together and respect each other, and have confidence that they will not be repressed by each other. That's an enormous leap of faith. That's an accomplishment that's just breathtaking historically in that part of the world.
FELDMAN: What about in terms of, how might this help Israel and the broader Middle East and have the people kind of live together without fear of threats?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, if you think about it, Israel's a successful democracy. There are very few successful democracies in that part of the world. If Iraq, an important country with oil, with water, with an important history, with industrious people, intelligent people, well educated people -- If Iraq becomes a successful democracy, it unquestionably will have an effect on its neighbors and on the region in a way that will be favorable to peace-loving people and to other democracies.
FELDMAN: And it's already had an impact on Libya.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, there are various things that have had an impact on Libya in terms of its weapons of mass destruction program, and certainly that's been a good thing for that part of the world. The exposure of the AQ Khan network had an effect on that. And we hope to see other countries step away from the development and the trading in weapons of mass destruction.
LOWENTHAL MARCUS: Mr. Secretary, turning to another non-successful, non-democracy, the Iranian President recently announced to the world that Israel should be wiped off the map, a position with which the Palestinian al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade endorsed. In your informed opinion, does Iran have the nuclear or other capability to achieve this wish? And does it have the political support to do so?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, you might want to go read the entire statement. The new President not only said what you said he said, but he also said that he could envision a world without the United States or Israel. And you'll find it in that document that was released.
LOWENTHAL MARCUS: Uh huh.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I don't know -- I'll leave it to the intelligence experts and the International Atomic Energy Committee, the IAEA, to characterize precisely the state and the development of the nuclear program in Iran.
I think that what seems to be clear is that they intend to develop their nuclear program, and that they have views that are hostile to other nations such as Israel and the United States and I'm sure other nations beyond those.
I think that that's unfortunate. I think the Iranian people have a proud history. They're intelligent people. I suspect that over time the women and the young people in that country will find that living in a society that's ruled by a handful of clerics is probably not what they would like. I suspect that in my lifetime we'll find them expressing that.
LOWENTHAL MARCUS: As the Secretary of Defense, though, can you give us any idea of what the United States is doing to defend ourselves from this threat?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, we invest many hundreds of billions of dollars a year to assure that the United States has the kinds of capabilities that we can in fact defend and deter other countries from attacking our nation. We believe we're doing those things that are appropriate and necessary individually, and in cooperation with friends and allies around the world.
FELDMAN: Mr. Secretary, last week you met with your Israeli counterpart, Mr. Mofaz. How did that meeting go? There's been a little bit of tension between the two countries in terms of military relations and cooperation. How were things?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, we had a very good meeting. The Israeli Ministry of Defense has taken a number of steps that I consider to be quite positive, and we are on a path as they undertake reforms in how they interact with other countries in the world with respect to various technologies. We're on a path to reestablish a relationship that is appropriate for our two countries.
FELDMAN: Is there any concern either on his part of your part about Israel maintaining its qualitative edge in the region? We're hearing that Russia is beginning to get a little more active, shall we say, in terms of Syria, Iran. Are there concerns about that?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well you're quite right. I mean Russia has been selling things to a great many countries. It's selling China almost anything China will buy. It is selling things -- Of course Israel's been selling to China as well. But they're selling to Syria and they've been assisting Iran with their nuclear program, the Bashir program, and they're selling to Venezuela, Russia is. So obviously it's those kinds of things that people address and worry about and wonder what direction that suggests.
FELDMAN: Are you at all concerned that that may hurt Israel's qualitative edge? Are you prepared, is the U.S. prepared to respond?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, it seems to me that the United States and Israel have a long and close relationship and that Israel has developed a highly competent and capable military and defense industry to their credit, which living in that part of the world as a democracy, it's perfectly appropriate for them to do, and we have had a very close, cooperative relationship with them, and that's a healthy thing from both of our standpoints.
FELDMAN: I want to talk about this new initiative you have called America Supports You and the web site you have about that, about people really getting behind our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and everywhere else.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well I thank you. America Supports You had a web site that's AmericaSupportsYou.mil, and what it's about is this. We have truly wonderful young men and women serving all across the globe in Korea, in Japan, in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, in the Horn of Africa and other locations doing such a terrific job courageously and professionally.
The web site, if you go into it and I hope you will, some 1.5 million people have already visited this relatively new web site. What you'll find is people can go there and find out the things that people are doing, whether it's a school or a corporation or an organization, a club, or an individual. What they're doing to support the men and women in uniform and their families, and it makes a big difference. So we're very grateful for all that support.
FELDMAN: May we put a link to that web site from our web site?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Indeed, yes you can.
FELDMAN: Thank you.
I want to thank you so much for joining us on the show today, and being our guest. It's really an honor for us to have you and hopefully if you have time you'll come back and visit with us again.
LOWENTHAL MARCUS: We sure hope you will.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you very much. I enjoyed it.
FELDMAN: And we really appreciate all you're doing for this country and your patriotism. Thank you.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you. That means a lot to me. I appreciate it.
FELDMAN: Thanks, be well, Secretary.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you.